Game With Your Brain's Holiday Gift Guide 2018 Edition

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 Merry Christmas from the Overwatch Squad!

Merry Christmas from the Overwatch Squad!

Every year, as the days inch closer and closer to Christmas and the New Year, there is always a sense of happiness in the air. Whether people look forward to a new year, and a fresh start, or they’ve had a brilliant year and hope it continues, nearly everyone looks forward to Christmas. Partly due to no work or school, and partly because of the Christmas presents. Yes, everyone obviously enjoys spending quality time with friends and/or family, but no one is going to say no to a couple of brilliant presents, are they? While one isn’t obligated to buy gifts for their friends and/or family, its generally expected of most people to buy something as a token of appreciation. This always leads to some problems, the biggest being what to buy for their friends. This question has driven many a man and woman to insanity. Socks? Shirts? A coffee machine? It’s nigh impossible to predict exactly what they’ll want or need.

If they play video games though, you may be in luck. Gamers aren’t that hard to please, as long as one does a bit of research into what genre they are interested in. If they’re interested in action-packed adventures, then look into getting them an action game, and if they’re more into casual, relaxing games, look more into indie and puzzle-solving titles. The possibilities are endless. But time is short, and you need those precious hours to find and buy these titles for your friends. As a result, I’ve decided to compile a list of games, and companion accessories that people can consult for a good gift for any of their gaming friends.

Gifts for the Adventurer

Your friend is a man who likes a good story, and a big ole world to explore. Running, riding, or racing through an entirely new world and enjoying entirely new experiences appeals to this person like no other. Luckily, there is a bevy of adventure games to buy this holiday season, and we’re going to run through a couple big titles.

Legend of the Wild West: Red Dead Redemption 2

 The protagonist of  Red Dead Redemption  2, Arthur Morgan

The protagonist of Red Dead Redemption 2, Arthur Morgan

Your friend has definitely heard of this game. At this point who hasn’t? Red Dead had the biggest opening weekend in the history of entertainment, grossing $725 million in just three days. Receiving rave reviews from a variety of gaming publications, the game takes place in the early 1900s in the wild west of America. You play as Arthur Morgan, a senior member of the Van Der Linde gang, led by Dutch Van Der Linde. You lie, steal, and cheat your way across America as the Van Der Linde gang moves in search of bigger scores and heists.

The game itself allows near-unlimited exploration, with a lot of locations and situations not blatantly shown on the world map unless you actually come across them as Arthur. The world is massive, complete with day and night cycles as well as interactive NPC’s strewn about the game. There’s no shortage of activities to do in the Wild West either. You can go hunting, play Poker, challenge someone to a duel… the world will react and interact with your actions in ways that are surprising and interactive. The story is impressive, rivaling most blockbuster movies to the point where the NY Times had an opinion article citing Red Dead as true art (for an argument as to why games deserve to be considered an art form, click here). It is console-only, so don’t waste your money if your friend only has a PC. If your friend is looking for an immersive experience that’ll burn away his time, and leave him thinking about horses, revolvers, and the wild west of America for days on end, pick this game up.

A Romp through Time : The Assassin’s Creed Franchise  

 Your character travels the world of Greece in a story modeled after a Greek tragedy, which doesn’t take away from the beauty of the game.

Your character travels the world of Greece in a story modeled after a Greek tragedy, which doesn’t take away from the beauty of the game.

If the wild west and gunslingers aren’t up your friend’s alley, and he’s more of the ancient history type, look no further than the Assassin’s Creed franchise. With releases since 2007, Assassin’s Creed has dominated the ancient history adventure genre for over a decade now. Their games have taken players across land, sea and time, ranging from the Holy Land in the Crusades, the British industrial revolution, Italy during the renaissance, and the open seas of the Caribbean during the golden age of Piracy. Their newest title, Odyssey takes players into Ancient Greece during the Peloponnesian war.

Players take the role of a Mercenary as they take jobs across the expansive Greek world, and expansive is an understatement. The world is massive, and Ubisoft has painstakingly recreated ancient Greece in great detail. The giant Greek statues, beautiful forest and living, breathing cities make for an immersive experience like no other. The franchise is sold both on computers, and for consoles, which does make it much easier in terms of figuring out what to buy. If you’re looking to escape into ancient history, marvelling at the accomplishments of humanity, while exploring and experiencing the beauty of the old world, Assassin’s Creed is the game for you.

Silver for Monsters: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

 Main protagonist, Geralt of Rivia faces off against a Griffin

Main protagonist, Geralt of Rivia faces off against a Griffin

If the human world, wild west or old history don’t appeal, and fantasy, with magic, sword fighting, and mystery appeal instead, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is your best bet. Released in 2015, the Witcher 3 is often considered one of the greatest games of all time. The game itself takes place in an entirely fictious universe, complete with griffin’s, dragons, wraiths, and vampires. You play as Geralt of Rivia, a Witcher, whose sole job is to eliminate these monsters, by any means necessary. The world, like the previous two titles mentioned are enormous, with three different districts, more if your purchase downloadable content.

The Witcher focuses heavily on narrative, complete with dialogue choices that affect the world around you, in ways that you won’t realize until it’s too late. Many video game publications found that the Witcher’s side-quests rivalled full game quests in their excellent storytelling and world building. As you complete quests and events in the world of the Witcher, Geralt gains experience points and gold, allowing him to acquire stronger weapons, and learn new abilities, ranging from alchemy and bomb-making, to magic, like telekinetic blasts, and fire. The size of the world is probably the most impressive point of the game however, due to its sheer size and impressiveness.  There’s a strange sort of beauty as you ride your horse through a forest at midnight, sword at the ready for any monsters lying in wait. Like Assassin’s Creed, the game is sold both on consoles and PC. The Witcher 3 has been out for several years now, so your friend most likely has the game. If he hasn’t though, pick it up. You, or him won’t regret it.

Those are just some of the big titles out there right now, and there are plenty more out there that haven’t been discussed. Here’s a small list of some other adventure titles that might appeal if the above games haven’t piqued interests.

Gifts for the Sports Lover

Your friend plays lots, and lots of sports. Even when he’s not playing football or basketball outside, he’s gotta be playing it at home. Luckily enough, there’s consistent releases of various sports titles for them to enjoy.

Still the Champ: FIFA 19 and NBA 2K19

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If your friend is a soccer fan, hardcore or casual, I would be amazed if he hasn’t played the FIFA series. The game has released every year (thus the 19), and despite a small drop since 2018, FIFA 19 is the biggest game of the year in the UK. The game has steadily become a larger spectacle, with the newest release including composer Hans Zimmer (of Inception and Dunkirk fame) to compose music for their game. The game includes more stadiums to play in, more signature moves, and more teams for the player. There’s even a story-based mode if your friend has some adventure blood in him. A continuation of the story that began in FIFA 17, you play as Alex Hunter as he rises from small beginnings to becoming a superstar.

NBA 2K19 is the basketball equivalent, complete with story-mode as well, featuring authentic mandarin commentary as your custom created character progresses through the Chinese Basketball Association, a first in the series. Both FIFA and 2K have consistently iterated on their previous titles, so every new title is slightly more polished than the last. If your friend is a fan of sports, pick these titles up. If basketball or football aren’t up their alley, here’s a list of some others that may work.

Gifts for the Competitive Lover

Your friend loves some good competition. Nothing gets them more excited than taking an enemy down and watching the victory screen flash over the TV or PC. There’s a lot of these games out there, so we’re going to talk about two of the more popular ones out there right now.

The Cavalry’s Here! Overwatch

  The poster child of Overwatch, Tracer

The poster child of Overwatch, Tracer

If your friend loves team-based shooters with a variety of characters ranging from a teleporting pilot, a robot monk, a man with a bow, to a hamster, they’ll love Overwatch. The characters range from simple, to difficult, allowing gamers of all skill levels to hop in and contribute to their team. Separating all players into two teams of six, players select their character and work together with their team to accomplish various objectives, defeating the enemy team as they do so. Overwatch received a substantial amount of media coverage, and within a week of its 2016 launch had over seven million players. To this day, Overwatch remains one of the only games to overtake the juggernaut League of Legends as the most played game in South Korea’s gaming cafés.

The game itself has received lots of praise for its gameplay, as well as its commitment to diversity when it comes to their characters. It’s competitive scene has grown, with Blizzard studios the creators of Overwatch unveiling a professional league, the OWL (Overwatch League), with the League garnering hundreds of thousands of viewers every time teams compete. If that isn’t a sign that the game is competitive, I don’t know what is. Overwatch is widely renowned for being one of the greatest multiplayer games of all time, and it’s still going on strong, so if you’re into competitive team shooters, pick it up!

Breach Charge Ready! : Rainbow Six: Siege

 Three characters in their elite skins, from Left to Right: Sledge, Thermite, and Kapkan

Three characters in their elite skins, from Left to Right: Sledge, Thermite, and Kapkan

Moving on from the more fantastical elements of Overwatch, if your friends are into more of a realistic experience, with emphasis on information gathering and tight shooting, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege is a good game for you. Tom Clancy was a famous author, and he was known for his very detailed books regarding spies, and military tactics. The games that were inspired in his name aim to do the same, and Siege is no different. While Siege had a bit of a rocky start, Ubisoft continued to improve and fix issues with the game, and their love and care has done wonders. The tense multiplayer is second to none, and largely focuses on tactics rather than simple run and gun. Over a long period of careful planning, and attention to the little things, Siege has grown from a relatively quiet launch to over 40 million players.

Siege has become something of a sleeper hit among multiplayer gamers, who either have played or heard of the game amongst their community. It’s more hardcore than Call of Duty or Battlefield, which may turn off the more casual, but it has fostered a passionate and growing community that has caused the game to grow to its size today. If your friend’s a fan of intense situations, pulling out incredible tactics and plays to defeat the enemy in the blink of an eye, grab Rainbow Six: Siege on consoles, or on PC.

Of course, these are only two specific games in a sea of multiplayer titles that could appeal. There are non-shooter multiplayer games, non-competitive multiplayer games… There’s a lot of multiplayer games out there, so we’ve once again included a small list of games to look out for.

Gifts for the Casual Game Lover

If your friend isn’t a fan of any of that, and he just wants a relaxed experience, one where he can just kick back, and chill for the rest of his day, fret not, there are games for that too. These games don’t require a ton of input, they’re often quite simple, yet they manage a nice need to be doing something very, very well.

Farming, but really fun farming!: Stardew Valley

For a game where the majority of what you do is tend a farm, and make it look nice and pretty, Stardew Valley is one of the most addicting games out there once one gets in to it. The story is quite simple, your character gets away from a boring office job to take over their late grandfathers farm in the location of Stardew valley. There, you raise animals, tend crops, mine iron, and meet and fall in love with new people as you continue to expand your farm. Without a definite ending, or a required progression system, players can jump in and jump out whenever they see fit. The calm music, and simple ambience and graphics really help build Stardew Valley’s motif of a relaxed, away from the hustle and bustle experience.

This indie game exploded, becoming one of the best-selling games on steam, selling over a million copies, even coming to iOS devices. It’s like Minecraft in how it simply gives players the reins, and allows them to explore, mine, and understand the world by themselves. There’s no intense fight scenes, or pulse-pounding gunfights, it’s just you, your shovel, and your farm. If your friend just wants to escape the stress and pressure of work into a calm, lovely and simple experience, Stardew Valley is right up your alley.

You Must Construct Additional Pylons: Astroneer

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This title is just like Stardew Valley in terms of relaxation. You’re essentially a space farmer. Rather than tend to animals, you terraform land and craft structures and buildings as you venture forth in the name of exploration. The graphics are very cute, and the quaintness of space exploration combined with the excellent soundtrack make for one of the most peaceful experiences in gaming possible. It’s hard to explain, but going on a deserted rocky planet, picking up small minerals and resources, looking them over as you plan for your various structures is incredibly relaxing, and almost cathartic in some way. There’s no real ending, so you can explore and terraform the procedurally-generated worlds to your hearts content. Kick back with a drink, and maybe a sandwich as you move your cute little astronaut across land, sea, and space.

The title is still early access, which means it hasn’t reached a full 1.0 version until February 2019. However, developers have continued to add features, and it’s already available to purchase. It’s simply a delightful game, and it reminds one of Minecraft, but with different graphics and a bit more focus in terms of exploration and sci-fi. Either way, if you enjoy relaxing experiences, or making your very own space community, pick up Astroneer, and watch out for debris as you build your colony.

Those are two of the most popular casual games out there, but there are of course a host of other casual games that people can pick up.

These are just a few titles that could prove to be good gifts for the gamer in all of us. In the coming festive season, hopefully this helps you put a smile on someone’s face, and in turn put the same smile on yours. Have a lovely time with family or friends, and enjoy the games!